Welcome to The Staggers

The launch of our new blog

It's an exciting day here at the New Statesman with the launch of our new rolling blog The Staggers. The blog will include posts from across the team with a dynamic mixture of news, views and insight.

From 8am every day we'll round up the best of the day's comment from the morning papers and from 4pm we'll select the highlights from the blogosphere.

In the run-up to the general election, we'll also provide full coverage of the latest opinion polls and live coverage of Prime Minister's Questions.

Our existing bloggers George Eaton and Sophie Elmhirst will continue to blog here and they'll be joined by Samira Shackle and the NS deputy editor, Jon Bernstein.

Sholto Byrnes will post on religion and atheism and Jason Stamper will write a weekly blog on technology and politics. Also look out for guest bloggers from across the centre left.

Elsewhere on the site, Mehdi Hasan and James Macintyre will continue to blog in their normal spaces and our rolling culture blog Cultural Capital will remain as before.

Finally, a note on the name. "Staggers" began as an affectionate (and mildly pejorative) name for the NS but like other terms that originated as insults (democrat, impressionist, intellectual) we plan to reclaim it as a badge of honour.

As ever, we need your involvement to make the blog a success, so do join the debate and let us know your thoughts.

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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.